Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Book review: Damage Control

Courageous lawyer saves the day, gets her life together, and finds romance! The bad guys get what's coming to them and the mighty fall! If this sounds like your kind of plot, then go no further than Robert Dugoni's Damage Control. If, on the other hand, you like nuance, fully-human characters, and believable action, you might think twice about this one.

Dana Hill is a smart, beautiful, and very successful lawyer, scion of a famous Seattle attorney. She seems to have it all: the career, the house, the husband, the child. But Dana is struggling. Her marriage has never been strong and it's only getting worse; her boss never lets up on her; and she's just found a lump in her breast. In the midst of all this, her twin brother James calls, wants to talk in person but doesn't want to say what it's about over the phone. Before they can meet, however, James is murdered. What seemed like a botched burglary soon shows itself to be more complicated, and detective Michael Logan is there to get to the bottom of things. He and Dana work together to piece together why James was murdered and uncover a trail of intrigue that reaches into the highest level of Seattle's political power structure.

Damage Control is a quick read told in simple language. The story moves forward with steady momentum, and there is a chase scene that had me on the edge of my seat. Still I found it unsatisfying. The plot is littered with twists, many of which feel forced, and the "who-done-it" is easily solved by the mid-point. From then on it becomes "how-can-we-catch-the-bastard," one credulity-straining scene following on another.

The characters are even less believable than the plot. Dana is the most fully-drawn, but the most one can say about her is that she is misguided. She has fooled herself about her marriage and is poised to make the same mistake her mother made in staying with a man who doesn't love her for the sake of her child. Michael Logan is the tough cop with a heart of gold. When Dana finds out he stuck by his wife, who deteriorated slowly and died from muscular dystrophy, her heart melts. It's a no-brainer that these two will end up together. The bad guys are even more stereotyped than the good guys. Senator Robert Meyers is a monster, and the man he hired to head his security department is a psychopath.

Damage Control may make good beach reading for fans of lawyer mysteries. If you're looking for an undemanding example of the genre, then you might give it a try. Otherwise, I say, "Objection, your honor!"

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